Monday, September 03, 2007

Princess Samuels laid to rest

Anika Lawal pursed her lips yesterday when an Army general read the list of honors that had been awarded posthumously to her daughter, Sgt. Princess Crystal-Dawn Samuels. She shook visibly as he took her hand, walked her to Samuels's silver coffin and asked her to place the medals atop the flag draped there.

But the sorrow she and her family expressed as they gathered for a funeral service at Jericho City of Praise Church in Landover and later a burial at Arlington National Ceremony soon gave way to anger.

"This is a total waste -- a total waste," said the soldier's grandfather, Steve Samuels Sr., looking at the coffin as it sat on plot number 8719 in section 60 of the cemetery. "She shouldn't have been over there. We've got young folks dying fighting a war that they know nothing about. They are not defending a country -- they are being used as pawns."

Lawal, who said she plans to use her daughter's death as a platform to argue against the war, wept openly as a three-gun salute was fired and taps was played on a bugle in the distance. Samuels, 22, the "girly girl" from Mitchellville with the pink-and-white poodle and the purple-and-pink car, was buried with full military honors.

Samuels's husband, Victor Jones, a former soldier who lives in Bowie, rocked and stared straight ahead at the ceremony at Arlington, occasionally wiping his cheek to remove a tear.

Samuels, a graduate of Charles H. Flowers High School in Springdale, was working as an intelligence officer with Headquarters and Headquarters Troop, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, in Taji, Iraq, when she was killed by enemy fire Aug. 15, according to a Defense Department statement.

She had been in Iraq since February, relatives said, and was so afraid that her health had started to fail. Lawal said Samuels had been treated for depression and weight loss but had not been able to return home.

Before the military ceremony at Arlington yesterday, loved ones, acquaintances and colleagues from Fort Hood, Tex., gathered at Jericho City of Praise to celebrate Samuels's life.

Lawal, in a cream suit with a pink hat in honor of daughter, was in tears as she filed past a large photo of Samuels in an elegant pose. She wailed as she walked toward the flag-draped coffin where her only daughter lay in her Army dress uniform.

Mourners included Prince George's County Council member David Harrington (D-Cheverly), County Executive Jack B. Johnson (D) and U.S. Rep. Albert R. Wynn (D-Md.), who was accompanied by his wife, Gaines, who taught Samuels art at Flowers High.

Before approaching the family to offer condolences, Johnson stood in the back of the sanctuary looking at Samuels's photo.

"I'm just disgusted, personally disgusted, beyond words about what is going on in Iraq and seeing all these beautiful young people die," Johnson said in an interview. "It's even [worse] because the president has never defined a national security reason for us being over there. . . . For him to continue to send our young men and women over there supposedly to establish a democracy is a falsehood."

Speakers told stories about how Samuels wanted to be a fashion designer and how she would design outfits from pieces she ripped off items in her closet. Gaines Wynn told the mourners how Samuels loved to paint with watercolors and had written her that she was painting while in boot camp in Fort Huachuca, Ariz., in the middle of the desert.

"Only Princess could have found something to paint in Fort Huachuca," she said, laughing through tears.

Later she recalled in an interview how surprised she was to learn that her art student had enlisted in the Army. She said Samuels went on a high-calorie diet, including ice cream and milkshakes, to gain enough weight to qualify for service.

During the eulogy, the Rev. Joel R. Peebles Sr. urged the mourners to be joyful and not sad.

"Family, know that is not a death," Peebles said directly looking at Lawal. "The Bible says those who believe don't die. This is simply a crossover moment."

Lawal nodded and smiled, comforted by the message, then headed to Arlington to bury her only daughter.

From the Washington Post

Related Link:
Princess C. Samuels dies 'when the enemy attacked using indirect fire'